A number of years ago I wrote a certain instructional guide. Had this guide not been lost to the ether it might have become a holiday classic. I've decided to resurrect that missive. Feel free to send this to anyone you think would benefit. Let's begin.
Getting the Best Out of Your Starbucks Gingerbread Latte
Upon entering your local Starbucks, stride purposefully to the counter to place your order. You want a Gingerbread Latte, and you shall not be denied. Whether that latte be venti, decaf, or skim be sure to project your order with certainty and pride. Let all the other customers know what you are about to do. They will admire you.
You've made your order. Now move on to the most important step. Choosing the Gingerbread man for your latte. Do not let the barista choose for you! On this point I cannot be too firm! While your local barista is a professional, this is a personal decision that you will have to live with for the next half hour or so.
Ask to see the cage.
You will find now that some Starbucks differ. One cafe will keep the cage in the back, out of sight of the more delicate customers. The bold cafe will have theirs out in plain view. No matter the location of the cage you'll want to take your time. If need be, get down on the same level as the gingerbread men. You should be close enough to detect their wistful mix of musk and spices.
When you first approach the enclosure a few of the occupants may rush forth, some even reaching for you through the bars. Be cautious, these are the toughest little guys in the joint. But, you don't want one of them. A few weeks of constant jockeying for pack status have left them balancing on a knife-edge of adrenaline and fear. Their hardscrabble existence has left them tough and stringy. There's not enough sugar behind the bar to mask their sour sweat. If you were to specify one for your drink, his bits would settle to the bottom of your cup, only to rush you en masse during your last sip.
Let's keep looking.
Peering further into the back of the cage you're likely to find a few meek souls pressed into the corner. Some may even be standing together swaying slightly, staring blankly back at you. These individuals are to be avoided as much as their boisterous brethren. These sad specimens will often exhibit a uniformly unkempt appearance. Tarnished or missing buttons are not unusual for this crowd. Look too for cracked icing, and in extreme cases, missing limbs. These timid fellows, with their lack of vitality and meek constitutions, have become soft and stale. Selecting any one of these perennial losers will leave you with a steaming mug of vaguely sweet sludge.
Now that you've excluded the undesirables, turn your attention to the balance of the enclosure's occupants. You're looking for a Gingerbread man who is neither meek nor aggressive. There he is! See how he looks happy to see you? Yet his sense of decorum and personal shyness keep him just out of reach. In the mid-depth shadows of the cage his buttons catch the light and flash a welcome as he coyly regards you with a twinkle in his eye.
You've found your man.
Point him out to the barista, and watch to ensure that it is indeed your prize that is plucked from amidst the chocolate shavings.
Now it's time to harden your heart. Remain steadfast in your resolve as the barista moves to prepare your wee man. Turn a deaf ear to his high-pitched entreaties. You may want to take this time to step back from the bar. Maybe you'd like to peruse the cafe's other merchandise. Chat with friends. Catch up on your voicemail. Or maybe you're made of sterner stuff and his plaintive cries find no purchase in your heart. Do not be concerned, it is nature's way. Listen for the muffled crack. Let the soothing whir of preparation buff your anticipation.
The barista calls your order.
Take a sip. Careful, it's hot! If you've chosen wisely - and I know you have - a hearty wave of gingerbread will roll across your tongue, bathing you in the warmth of the holiday season.
Enjoy your latte.